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These guys will be asked to be blockers in the run game and reliable pass catchers for quarterbacks. Today I rank the top five tight end prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft.
1. Kyle Pitts- Florida
Bio: Playing quarterback before switching to tight end in high school, Kyle Pitts committed to Florida. After playing sparingly as a freshman, he started every game as a sophomore. As a junior, he scored 12 touchdowns in eight games while gaining 770 yards on 43 receptions while winning the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end.
Strengths: Elite combination of size, speed, athletic ability, and ball skills. Matchup nightmare who will take an elite defender to cover. Dangerous at all three levels of the field. Creates mismatches wherever he lines up in the offense. Keeps defenders on their toes with change of speed throughout routes. Improvises to get open without loosing momentum. Burst and long strides create instant separation. Good hands to dislodge grabby defenders. Fast ball tracking while keeping position. Maintains poise and focus on contested balls. Superb body control on high balls. Back shoulder weapon in the red zone. Strong, soft hands with excellent arm extension. Puts effort in as a blocker.
Weaknesses: Short area footwork needs improvement. Doesn't lure defense off his route design. Overall play strength is missing to be an inline blocker. Struggles to sustain blocks at the point of attack against strong edge rusher. Instincts in space are below average. Some injury concerns with a concussion sustained as a junior.
Pro Comparison: Darren Waller
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Atlanta Falcons
2. Pat Freiermuth- Penn State
Bio: A four star recruit out of high school, Pat Freiermuth committed to Penn State. As a true freshman, he made nine starts and recorded 26 receptions for 368 yards and eight scores. Over the next two seasons, he established himself as the top tight end of the Big Ten.
Strengths: Confident team leader. Played all over the offense as wing, slot, and inline receiver. Ideal combination of size and athleticism. Former basketball player with good footwork in space for someone his size. Capable of tipping balls back for second chance catch opportunities. Third down conversion target. Solid build up speed to get past linebackers. Competitive with the ball in his hands. Slick in space and fights for extra yards after the catch. Puts defenders on their backs with strong stiff arm. Potential to be a dominant run blocker. Impressive recovery speed to finish blocks.
Weaknesses: Blocking angles need improvement. First punch needs more thump. Footwork gets lazy when trying to sustain second level blocks. Physical coverage slows his progress. Must learn to avoid magnet defenders at the top of routes. Average quickness to gain separation off route breaks. Focus on contested balls is inconsistent. Can work on keeping coverage at his hip and away from passing lane.
Pro Comparison: Kyle Rudolph
Projected Round: 1-2
Possible Landing Spot: New England Patriots
3. Brevin Jordan- Miami
Bio: The top tight end recruit of 2018, Brevin Jordan chose to attend Miami. In his three seasons with the Hurricanes, he amassed 105 receptions for 1,358 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Strengths: Three year starter with decent frame. Dangerously used inline and the slot. Confidence won't be an issue. Route running and breaks improved as a junior. Tackles tight turns on out routes to get free. Creates open windows on 5-yard slants. Gets open on off schedule or broken down plays. Absorbs hits and keeps going after the catch. Decent acceleration after the catch. Running style of a bruising power running back.
Weaknesses: Tweener body that some team avoid. Overall blocking technique is erratic. Will need coached up to learn how to sustain blocks. Will give route path away with gradual bends inside. Balance is average at best. Stiff hips limit him at the second level. Needs to be more aggressive going up for high balls. Body catcher with bobbling tendencies. Unreliable on contested catches. Missed parts of the last two years with separate injuries.
Pro Comparison: Evan Engram
Projected Round: 2-3
Possible Landing Spot: Jacksonville Jaguars
4. Hunter Long- Boston College
Bio: A star as a tight end and defensive end in high school, Hunter Long committed to Boston College as a tight end. As a redshirt freshman, he averaged 25 yards per reception on just four catches. In 2020, he was named first team All-ACC with 57 catches for 685 yards and five touchdowns.
Strengths: Play speed increases as route goes on. Dangerous in the seam. Could be coached to be used at all three levels. Hand work to swipe away clingy coverage at the top of routes. 60% of his catches as a junior went for a first down. Gets separation out of route breaks. Finds a way to get open on break downs. Soft hands for just about any catch. Focus increases when he knows the ball is headed in his direction. Plucks balls away from his frame. Could be an issue for linebackers to cover.
Weaknesses: Play strength and tenacity are below average. Allows press coverage into his frame at the start of routes. Speeds through routes rather than selling breaks occasionally. Doesn't consistently finish contested throws. Not strong enough to handle stronger defensive ends as a blocker. Blocking technique is messy and unrefined. Didn't help his running backs get free against Clemson in 2020.
Pro Comparison: Austin Hooper
Projected Round: 4
Possible Landing Spot: Tennessee Titans
5. Tony Poljan- Virginia
Bio: As the Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year, Tony Poljan decided to attend Central Michigan to play quarterback. Over the next two seasons, he split time playing quarterback and tight end. By his junior year, he was playing tight end fulltime. Prior to 2020, he transferred to Virginia as a graduate student and led the Cavaliers with six receiving touchdowns.
Strengths: Big frame that can handle more added mass. Tough at the point of attack. Length to sustain and redirect defenders away from the ball carrier. Reliable blocker at the second level. Awareness and footwork to be a consistent boundary receiver. Large catch radius to make receptions out of off target throws. Good athletic ability to gain separation from linebackers. Consistent receiving production in two different conferences. Former dual threat quarterback who knows how to find holes in coverage.
Weaknesses: Slow getting out of stance and into routes. Too easily rerouted by strong coverage defenders. Start of routes lack burst. Hip stiffness and stride with little knee bend. Lacking second gear in open field. Must work on using size to his advantage at the point of catch. Fairly stiff when going up for high balls. Hand placement and pad level are inconsistent while blocking.
Pro Comparison: Logan Thomas
Projected Round: 4
Possible Landing Spot: Dallas Cowboys
Other Notable Prospects
Cary Angeline- North Carolina State
- Quality athlete, not physically imposing
Tre' McKitty- Georgia
- Above average speed for the position, poor awareness
Quintin Morris- Bowling Green
- Natural receiver, shorter than ideal
Nick Eubanks- Michigan
- Decent receiver, minimal production
Kenny Yeboah- Mississippi
- Good speed, poor blocker
Briley Moore- Kansas State
- Powerful frame, injury concerns
Pro Wells- TCU
- Smooth glider, raw blocker
Tommy Tremble- Norte Dame
- Highly athletic, should have stayed in school
John Bates- Boise State
- Traditional blocker, not a receiving threat
Kylen Granson- SMU
- Highly productive, tweener frame
Hunter Kampmoyer- Oregon
- Former edge rusher, minimal production
John Raine- Northwestern
- Capable receiver, undersized
Jack Stoll- Nebraska
- Strong hands, stats don't show much impact
Dylan Soehner- Iowa State
- Strong blocker, poor speed
Noah Gray- Duke
- Consistently productive, weak core strength